Sunday, 9 June 2019

Developing character voice

2.11 An exercise for developing character voice

Let’s try this with a character of your own: explore your character’s eating patterns, and then stress them. Rob them, arrest them, or make sure that their credit card is refused. Whatever it is, make sure that the character will have to struggle to extricate themselves from the situation. The character’s dialogue and action will combine to create the basic elements of voice.
Share your reflections on the exercise in the comments.
© University of East Anglia

Staring at a social media post about a female trophy hunter gloating over killing and eating an endangered giraffe. 
I hate her and her cronies. She is the lowest of the low. There is no challenge in killing an awkward giraffe. Why did she eat it? Look at her, she has never missed a meal in her life. Rich sicko bitch should be sent out to be hunted by poachers.”

Throws crumpled paper at the screen. Twirls a fork slowly in a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise laden with grated cheese. Pushes the bowl away. 
Who am I to talk? I’m a hypocrite. I condone brutality every day by my willingness to ignore the realities.”

Stands and turns away from the screen.

I am as bad as she is. I’ve been pregnant, I’ve given birth. I held my babies against my breast. How would I feel if they were torn from me and slaughtered so someone else could use my milk? All those cows with dead calves just so I can have my cheese.”

Turns back to screen. Waves both hands like swatting at flies. 
Eat your giraffe, bitch and gloat all you like, at least you are up front and honest about it. Not like me. I’m going to go back to pretending I don’t know what I know. I love cows I just don’t love them enough to stop drinking milk and I love cheese too much to give it up.”

Picks up fork and shoves overlarge serving into mouth. Tears on cheeks.

I’m sorry cows.”

Introduction to screenwriting develop character outlines

2.6 An exercise to develop character outlines
When we start the process of character development it helps to create character outlines. Drawing on Michael’s article and the panel discussion, create an outline for a character from a film that you’ve recently seen or use it as an opportunity to develop a character of your own.
  • List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.) Saves a planet, meets his sister, graduates, develops leadership skills, joins military, lands on a planet in a stolen flyer/joyride-takes souvenirs, acting out grief from loss of father
  • Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?
    Wants to find his father, wants to prove himself to his absent father, gain his mother’s respect/admiration, regain connection with his siblings.
  • Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious? : Physically fit, slender, brown curly hair, dark eyes. Intelligent, impulsive, thoughtless of others -changes to empathy, strong connection to father – changes to respect for mother and uncle, develops leadership and protectiveness of ‘his’ people, friendly.
  • Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?: Fun but conservative. Party boy with a conscience. Smart without being a showoff.
  • List any important physical characteristics.
This is just an outline, so stick to that format and make lists; avoid long prose descriptions.

Share your outline on your blog, link to it in our comments area so other learners can view and comment on it.

Do also review and comment on other people’s outlines and thoughts on the experience.

Friday, 22 February 2019

NYC Midnight short story challenge 2019 round 1 Heat 18 - Action/Adventure / An eclipse / A fugitive


“If I make it out of here Mike, our friendship is over!”
Winny gritted her teeth and pulled herself further up the hill.
She reached for the next sapling, sandals slipping on the dried grass pulling her back down and tearing off another glittering fingernail. She cradled her hand under her body for a few minutes while the pain receded and pressed her face into the grass. The scent of dust and rotting plant tickled at her nose and throat. She listened a little longer to the insects chirring around her.
“Ew, ants!” She sat up abruptly and brushed away the offending bugs. “Did I mention I hate you Mike. I told you and told you. I. Don’t. Do. Nature.”
Winny reached for another sturdier sapling. “But Oh no, you wouldn’t listen. Dress for the outdoors Win. Sure outdoors by the pool, outdoors at a party on a nice grassy lawn.” She pressed her back to the upper side of a tree trunk and tried her phone again. “Not even emergency calls? Really? How can there be no signal on the side of a mountain?” she clicked a selfie. “No one will believe it’s me in a forest”
The terrain levelled out for a few meters before the next incline. Winny pressed her hands to her knees and caught her breath. The bird calls and insects quieted as the heat rose. Sweat wreaked havoc on her carefully applied makeup. Another nail broke off and she stuck it in the bark. Tears sent dark runnels down her cheeks. “Maybe I can use the nails as signposts to find my way back?” she wiped the back of her wrist across her face and stared at the dark streak. “I should have worn my super dry mascara, didn’t know I would need it, did I? Damn you Mike.” Her voice turned to a sneer, “I know this great place to see the eclipse, I know the way, I don’t need directions, the GPS doesn’t work out this far – and look where it got us Mr. Control freak. Ow!” sucking on yet another nail she bent to pick up the glittering painfully ripped off expensive acrylic and wedged it in the tree back. “Here’s me climbing a mountain in my catwalk shoes and designer silks, and you unconscious in the care of a mad man at the bottom of the hill. The limp seemed real but he moved awfully fast for a wounded man. Shit!” The designer sandal strap snapped. Winny squatted neatly in her pencil skirt to inspect the damage. “The other will go too.” She sat elegantly on a log and rolled down her pantyhose. Ripping with her teeth to start a tear she slid her sandals back on and tied the nylon around and around ending in neat bows on both. “Rustic but elegant” she smiled and patted the bows. She began to swing her legs over yet another log, holding her skirt against her bottom and rolling into a standing position. “Oh this is ridiculous, I will never make it back by sunset.” She began to tug at the seam of her skirt but it held firm, as a well-made garment should. “Sorry Nan, only you and I know the truth. A shop bought one would tear easier.” Clenching her jaw she gave a mighty tug and the seam gave way, allowing her legs to move freely. “That’s better. I don’t know why I ever decided to date you Mike.” She stepped around a huge tree, avoided some nasty brambles and grabbed the trunk of a smaller tree to haul herself up the next bit of hill, “We were good as just friends, sort of, but we’ve both changed since we were kids.” The next fallen tree was easier to leap over. “You owe me a new skirt.”
The climb grew steeper; the sun rode relentlessly to its peak, the moon hovering close in the clear blue sky. “This sun is giving me freckles, I can feel them forming. I should’ve put on my SPF50+ foundation. Damn it!.”
Winny’s breathing grew laboured and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. “I need a breath mint, or water. Water would be good.” Her monologue slid between cracked lips. She held her phone up to the hot blue sky like a benediction. “Or a couple of bars, so I can call for help? No? Water then, that’d be good.” A sound she had been hearing but not listening to, tugged at her awareness. “A water feature out here?” Changing direction brought her to a trickle squeezing out of a crack in an enormous rock and dripping into a tiny pool before soaking back into the earth. She ignored the floating bits and scooped up a palm full of chilly refreshing water. “There are no bugs, there are no bugs, just close my eyes and drink.” She washed her face and reluctantly wet her hair then took a deep breath.
“Just keep moving, just keep moving, Mike is counting on me and the old man seemed desperate for his pet. I can do this.” She waved her phone around like a baton to emphasise her points, “He could’ve just asked, I would’ve gone to get his pet if he just asked but he had to go and hurt Mike and then make that threat.” She slapped her phone into the palm of her hand, “Stop it Win, no use crying about it. What was that?” Standing still she listened for the sound again, “Did I actually hear some –“ her heart rate ratcheted up as a snake slithered through a sandy patch close to her feet. A tiny moan full of fear and tears escaped her. Adrenaline flooded her muscles but she forced herself to back slowly away from the serpent before stumble running further up the hill as fast as her legs would carry her.
The line where the trees ended and the cliffs began finally came in sight. Winny spotted the cabin where the old man had said it would be. A rough path of shale and rocks made walking difficult in her damaged sandals but she stuck her arms out to the sides and managed to stay upright. “Well those dance lessons were good for something.”
Winny smoothed her skirt, brushed a few twigs from her hair and lifted her hand to open the door but froze at voices coming from inside.
“When the bastard comes back, I’ll take him out for this. He’s wounded so he can’t be far.” The voice squeezing through a nasal blockage had an edge of revenge in it.
“Our orders are to bring him back in one piece.” This was not a voice to argue with.
Winny stepped back and bumped into something immovable.
“You lost Miss?”
Winny looked up over her shoulder and up again into the face of the uniformed bulk behind her. He held a gun almost as big. He dropped the end of his cigarette and crushed it slowly into the dirt.
“Easy to get lost in these parts; can’t be too careful out here.”
She squeaked as the bulk reached around her to open the door.
“Visitor boys.” An enormous hand guided her into the shaded room.
Another man in uniform also carrying a gun leaned close enough for her to smell cloves. His was the inarguable voice.
“You’ve lost a caterpillar honey.” He pointed a gnarled finger at her face and Winny frantically explored her cheeks and forehead.”
“Nooooo.” she patted her clothing and futilely searched the floor. “Nooooo, I just had them done. A week they said. One day is not a week. I am going to demand my money back...”
“Who sent you?”
A dagger of fear danced down Winny’s spine. Gasping like a goldfish on a bench, Winny tried to fill her lungs with a calming breath. Trembling ran along all her limbs and her extremities held no warmth in spite of the sunburn inducing heat of the day.
“Speak up or I’ll find a nice little cliff to drop you over.” The flat nose of the nasal voice hung on a too small head above an over muscled body. Same uniform, more guns.
She waved her phone around, noticing the number of weapons adorning the three very large men in uniforms, and one other door.
Winny gripped her phone and felt crazy calm slip over her.
“No reception up here either? This is sooo unacceptable.”
Winny lifted the corners of her mouth into her most engaging smile. She knew it was engaging because all the feedback was positive, well most was but who cares about haters and trolls right? She directed the smile at the man with the voice of authority.
“I am so lost and it would be just great if you could point out where the car park is. You are rangers, right? You look like park rangers. Can you help me?”
The man looked her up and down in the slow way the other man had crushed his cigarette.
“The fluttering eye thing probably works better when you have two caterpillars sweet heart.” The bulky man pointed out.
Winny blushed and cupped her remaining eyelash in her hand.
The man chuckled, it sounded like rocks rattling in a sack.
Winny took a selfie and squealed. “Oh no! I’m a mess, can I use your bathroom?”
She ducked through the other door without waiting for a reply and locked it behind her. She turned on the rusty tap over a cracked yellow hand basin and watched brown sludge gurgle and slop down the drain.
“What am I going to do? I’m so scared and those guys look seriously dangerous. I am never going to speak to you again Mike. Maybe I won’t get the chance? I’ll never laugh at you waving your arms around like your Nonna when you get mad, never get to argue with you over which movie we watch, never…oh get a grip Win, what if’s won’t get me out of this place.”
“Out here girl, we want to ask you a few things.”
Win noticed a basket in the corner. A hum came from inside it.
“The pet?” She squatted, reaching to open the basket but pulled back at sudden pounding on the door.
“Get out here now or we’ll break down the door and drag you out.”
Winny grabbed the basket and climbed onto the hand basin, squeezing her hips through the tiny window, dropped the basket then lowered herself to the ground. Grabbing the basket handle she sprinted for the trees, slipped on a rock, slid down the embankment, hit a tree, levered herself around it, tumbled into a prickly shrub, tore her last nail off, and ran. The nylon unravelled and she lost her sandals. Heart pounding, mouth dry, breath rasping from her lungs, feet full of thorns she barely felt as she ran with the eerily soft tread of three large deadly pursuers close behind.
“Give us that basket!”
The bellow pushed her. A nail shaped glint in the bark of a tree guided her adrenaline fuelled brain which way to go.
“Stop, girl. You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”
She pivoted around a sapling, narrowly avoided a grasping hand. A leap over a fallen tree gave her a tiny advantage .
Something weird was happening to the light but she barely noticed it in her headlong flight, with pain in her sides, fire in her thighs, slipping and skidding downhill.
“Stop!” the inarguable voice threw a command at her. She ignored it.
Another gleam of a nail in the grass led her on; a trail guiding her.
The basket thumped heavily against her hip. No further noise had issued from it.
The easier going of a track gave her an energy boost. She sprinted.
The wounded man stepped into her path.
He lifted a large and very solid branch and swung it. She ducked under his arm.
Thwack! The sound of timber hitting flesh and the heavy thud of a body landing sounded behind her.
Her long legs found a stride and she pumped them for distance.
She almost missed the sound.
Skidding to a halt, she dropped the basket, gripping her knees to stop herself falling. Her stomach made nasty threats. Her lungs protested. Sweat sluiced her camisole. The trembling returned to her legs and arms. Head hanging low behind a leaf festooned curtain of sweat clumped hair, she squinted into the gloomy light.
“Down here.”
He was under a shelter of woven bushes with a bandaged head and a makeshift pillow of leaves and grass. Winny dropped.
“I don’t think I can ever get up again.”
Limping footsteps approached.
“Oh God will he hurt us now?”
She managed a defensive crouch in front of Mike.
“I don’t know what good I can do, but I’ll try.”
“That’s the scrapper I remember.” Mike’s voice cracked.
“Don’t start Mike; I’m not that girl anymore.”
Wounded man held up his free hand.
“I won’t hurt you girl, I’ve risked everything and I need your help, again.”
Winny managed to stand.
“Why should I help you again? You put us in danger.”
“You were never in any real danger but I will be when those three wake up. I need you to keep this. ”
He nudged the basket gently.
“The car park is about ten minutes’ walk that way.”
He pointed in a direction about 45 degrees south of where they had been heading.
“If you go now, you can watch that eclipse you were so set on.”
He looked up at the sky and back at Winny.
“I’m going away for a long time because of that.” He indicated the basket with a jut of his chin then smiled, “and it needs someone gutsy to look after it. You’ll be perfect; you’ve a good heart and courage. You’ll need both.”
He nudged the basket almost tenderly, then turned back in the direction he had come from.
Winny helped Mike stand up. He gripped his head. She began to walk away, her arm firm around his ribs. She looked back at the basket.
“Did that just move?”
“Just leave it Win. It’s not out problem.”
“It moved. I can’t let a thing just die in a basket in the forest.”
She ran back to the basket. Something was definitely moving. She grabbed the handle.
The light slipped away as they reached the car.
Winny glanced in the mirror at the basket secured in the back seat then carefully peeled off her remaining eyelash.
“Do you think they will come looking for me?”
“Win, I think you should take whatever that thing is to a zoo.”
“I’ll drop you at Emergency.”
Mike slammed the door harder than necessary. She didn’t look back.
A line of sunlight rushed toward the car, rolling back the almost night.
“The eclipse really was pretty.”